''Al-Qaeda''s ability to launch anti-US operations shrinking''

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Lalit K Jha

Washington, Jan 28 (PTI) The US has been able to"continually shrink" al-Qaeda''s ability to launch terroroperations against it even as the situation in the Af-Pakregion remains not perfect, President Barack Obama has said.

"The situation''s not going to be perfect there, butwhat we have been able to do is to continually shrink theability of al-Qaeda to launch operations. And we expect todismantle their operational capacity over the next severalyears," Obama said in an interview to YouTube, which wasbroadcast live on the popular video sharing website.

"That is our goal, and we''re going to keep on it," hesaid during the course of the interview which was taken bySteve Grove, head of news and politics, YouTube.

Obama''s answers on Afghanistan came within hours afterhe chaired a situation room meeting on Af-Pak with his topnational security advisors.

"Our work in Afghanistan is precisely because that wasthe launching pad from which 9/11 happened and 3,000 Americanswere killed. So we''re not over there by accident," he said.

"Obviously, I disagreed with us going into Iraq, but Iwill say that we are bringing the war in Iraq to a honourableconclusion because of the extraordinary service of our men andwomen, both military and civilian in Iraq. We''ve still gotwork to do in this transition, but by the end of this year,we''ll have all our troops out," he said.

The Iraqi people now have a government that they wouldbe looking to for governance and development, he said.

"In Afghanistan, we have al-Qaeda and its allies. Wehave them along the border region in Pakistan and Afghanistan,and it is my job as president to make sure that they can''tlaunch another 9/11 against us," Obama said.

"Over the next couple of years, we are going to betransitioning so that we are bringing troops back. Afghans aretaking a greater lead. The situation''s not going to be perfectthere, but what we have been able to do is to continuallyshrink the ability of al-Qaeda to launch operations. And weexpect to dismantle their operational capacity over the nextseveral years," Obama said.

Unlike Iraq, Obama conceded, Afghanistan is a toughersituation.

"What I''ve said is that starting in July of this year,we''re going to begin to phase down our troop levels. We''veagreed with our allies that by 2014 this is going to be anAfghan effort," he added.

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